If you’re involved with the web in any capacity, you’ve probably heard the term “user experience (UX) design.” It has become an essential element for any successful website. It can often be misunderstood, though, as “UX” can refer to different things, depending on the context.
The general term “the user experience” refers to every touch point a person has with a company or site—to the experience as a whole. However, the field of UX design tends to be more focused, because the user experience designer primarily works on research, planning, organization of site content and user testing.
UX design has existed in some form for almost as long as the web has existed. Designers (and the companies that hire them) have always wanted their websites to be useful and enjoyable. However, we made assumptions about what our users wanted, and a lot of times we got it wrong. We needed to establish best practices and find ways to test our theories.
Over the past decade or so, we have done just that, and UX design has grown tremendously. UX designers are in high demand. Our testing and organization tools are maturing, and you can find best practice research on the smallest details.
At USGBC, we work very hard to make sure we are putting our community’s needs first, so our web team is always looking for the latest UX research and tools. Currently, we are excited to start using InVision Studio. The tool has not yet been released to the general public, but it promises to help streamline the design and prototype process. This, in turn, will help us create more effective information architecture and make user testing more efficient, so we can make sure new digital product and feature launches delight our community right from the start.
Here are a few of our other favorite UX design resources:
- The best UX book, in my opinion, is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s a quick read that goes over UX essentials and user testing, which he highly encourages.
- Norman Nielsonessentially writes the standards for UX. If I am looking for research, it’s the first place I go.
- Smashing Magazine is also a great resource. Their UX collection really gets into the nitty-gritty, and I have found it extremely helpful.
- Alistapart is an invaluable resource for all things design and dev from the godfather of web standards, Jeffrey Zeldman.
- General Assembly provides classes and workshops from some of the industry’s best.
- User Interface Engineering is another great place to read up on the latest UX research.
Since 2014, USGBC has published a regular member magazine, both in print and online. USGBC+ runs between 60 and 75 pages as a perfect-bound publication, with a dynamic web presence to allow readers the option of perusing new and archived content at their leisure. With a focus on the people behind the green building movement, the magazine is a vehicle for longform storytelling and allows us to showcase member company successes, project profiles, current research and market trends.
I have had the privilege of managing the magazine production and content development process since 2016, and I have a few key techniques up my sleeve to share with you, especially in relation to working with an editorial board.
Internally, an editorial board of about 20 members of the USGBC senior staff develops our magazine. We also have the guidance of an expert team of content developers, designers and marketers from ContentWorx.
Here are my go-to strategies for successfully working with an editorial board:
Gather the right group at the table.
The first step in developing a productive editorial board is ensuring you have the right mix of voices at the table. For USGBC+, we invite several members of the communications and marketing teams, but we also select one high-level member of each of our functional or programmatic departments to join the board.
This approach ensures that we are hearing from the breadth of the organization and gaining the perspective of senior leadership who can easily draw connections between story ideas and organizational priorities.
Set expectations up front.
We know that our senior staff members are incredibly busy, and that they may not always be able to attend our editorial board meetings. To ensure we reach a quorum at each meeting, we set the expectation up front that if a member of the board is unable to make a meeting, they will send a member of their team in their place.
Additionally, we ask our editorial board members to reflect on the magazine theme in advance of each meeting and to come with fresh ideas for stories that are actionable—meaning they have the necessary information and contacts at hand to help our writers get started.
Finally, we ask our editorial board members to help us promote the magazine content when each issue goes live by sharing it with their network of contacts, posting on social media and following up with individuals who were interviewed to thank them for their participation.
Cultivate a sense of investment.
Because our editorial board only meets once every two or three months, it can be a struggle to create a sense of real investment in the process and the product, especially when our board members have so many other responsibilities and priorities. By maintaining regular contact with board members, sharing our magazine lineup in advance, running drafts of stories by them for input and making them the first to know when a new issue drops, we can help generate a sense of cohesion and commitment.
Celebrate and empower the group.
We have a habit of starting each editorial board meeting by sharing news about the most recent issue. We recap the stories that were included and give our board a hearty pat on the back for a job well done. It is no small thing to take a magazine from concept to reality, and our board deserves a good deal of credit.
We also empower our board to make strategic decisions by sharing information with them such as article performance, web traffic and audience survey responses. This leads to a greater sense of investment and, ultimately, better magazine content for our readers.